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Coyote, Wile E.

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 24, 2004

    A predator blessed with enormous intelligence and perseverence; yet cursed with a level of luck that would stagger Job. He fails repeatedly in his quest to catch the Roadrunner, partly due to his use -- or misuse -- of the products of the Acme firm.

    A co-creation of Chuck Jones and Mike Maltese, the Coyote would pursue the Roadrunner throughout a fifteen year span during the Classic era. The Coyote also did battle with Bugs Bunny in a handful of memorable shorts; in which he had a well-educated, highly-cultured voice and a simply fabulous ego. Witness his famous line of self-introduction as “Wile E. Coyote, Genius.” The same title is proudly emblazoned on the mailbox he maintains in Compressed Hare (Jones, 1961).

    In only one Roadrunner cartoon, Zoom at the Top (Jones, 1962), does the carnivore actually utter an articulate word: an understated “ouch” after being mangled by a huge steel trap.

    The series provided Jones with some relief, in that the Coyote cartoons could be turned out faster and less expensively than some of his other cartoons. The considerably more sophisticated and expensive What’s Opera, Doc? was made possible, in part, by the fact that Jones and his staff diverted time and resources to it which had originally been allocated for a fairly routine Coyote production. It is perhaps worthy of note here that four out of the eight cartoons released by Jones in 1961 were Coyote cartoons. The reader is referred to Chuck Amuck for a detailed discussion of the so-called “rules” he applied to the series.

    Ironically enough, the series began as a parody of chase cartoons in the same vein as Fair and Wormer (Jones, 1946). The character was based in part on the description Mark Twain gave of coyotes in Roughing It, Twain being a seminal influence on Jones. Jones has readily acknowledged the influence of Frank Tashlin’s The Fox and the Grapes (Columbia, 1941) for the blackout gag concept.

    There was a gap of three years between the first and second cartoons in the Roadrunner series; Jones was inspired to make more entries when he received a letter from a military aviator noting the popularity of the first cartoon, Fast and Furry-ous (1949), to the extent that some pilots were calling “Beep Beep” to one another during excercise maneuvers.

    The original model sheet for the character bears a label referring to the character as “Don Coyote”, in reference to Miguel Ceverantes’ Don Quixote.

    Jones and Maltese developed another character, Ralph Wolf, who was identical to Wile E. Coyote, save for a taste for mutton and a red nose.

    Filmography, all directed by Jones:

        Fast and Furry-ous (1949)
        Beep Beep (1952)
        Going Going Gosh (1952)
        Operation: Rabbit (1952) with Bugs
        Zipping Along (1953)
        Stop, Look and Hasten (1954)
        Ready, Set, Zoom! (1955)
        Guided Muscle (1955)
        Gee Whiz-z-z (1956)
        There They Go-Go-Go (1956)
        To Hare is Human (1956) with Bugs
        Scrambled Aches (1957)
        Zoom and Board (1957)
        Whoa, Be Gone (1958)
        Hook, Line and Stinker (1958)
        Hip Hip Hurry (1958)
        Hot Rod and Reel (1959)
        Wild About Hurry (1959)
        Fatest With the Mostest (1960)
        Hopalong Casualty (1960)
        Rabbit’s Feat (1960) with Bugs
        Zip ’n’ Snort (1961)
        Lickety Splat (1961)
        Beep Prepared (1961)
        Compressed Hare (1961) with Bugs
        Zoom at the Top (1962)
        To Beep or Not to Beep (1963)
        Hare-Breadth Hurry (1963)
        War and Pieces (1964)

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• The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion is © (copyright) 1996 E. O. Costello. All rights reserved.

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